Oilers trade Grebeshkov

Edmonton Oilers Denis Grebeshkov takes part in the fastest skater competition during the Edmonton...

Edmonton Oilers Denis Grebeshkov takes part in the fastest skater competition during the Edmonton Oilers skills competition on Sunday in Edmonton. ( JASON FRANSON/QMI AGENCY)

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:37 AM ET

At least the Edmonton Oilers were able to give Denis Grebeshkov a lift.

Having arrived in Nashville with the Oilers for tonight's first game back following the Olympic break, Grebeshkov will now be staying a while longer in Music City after being traded to the Predators on Monday for a second-round pick in this summer's NHL Entry Draft.

The big defenceman was informed of the deal shortly after stepping off the plane.

"I was a little surprised," Grebeshkov said. "But I understand it's a business and these things happen. I feel pretty excited, though, that I'm joining a team that will be fighting for a playoff spot."

Grebeshkov, 26, had six goals and 13 assists in 47 games for the Oilers this season. He recently returned from Vancouver, where he represented Russia at the Winter Olympics.

Last season, Grebeshkov was one of Edmonton's best defencemen towards the end of the year, filling in admirably after Lubomir Visnovsky went down with a season-ending shoulder injury.

This year, however, Grebeshkov has struggled with his consistency, and at times has driven the coaching staff crazy with untimely giveaways.

"You can see he has some skill," said head coach Pat Quinn. "But I think defensively he's like our team -- we haven't been strong defensively. That's an area where we're trying to help him get better.

"He can handle the puck, but he seemed nervous at times and certainly didn't play anything like I was advised he could play. That's obviously disconcerting to any coach that the guy doesn't get back to the levels that we've seen before ... but we haven't seen that this year."

Originally selected in the first round, 18th overall, by the Los Angeles Kings in the 2002 NHL Entry draft, the native of Yaroslavl, Russia, was acquired by the Oilers in a trade with the New York Islanders for defenceman Marc-Andre Bergeron in Feb. 2007.

Grebeshkov was in his third year with the Oilers, having put up a career-high 39 points last season.

"I wanted to stay in Edmonton," he said. "I really liked it there. I like the guys a lot and I liked the city. I enjoyed my time there."

The move is the first in what is expected to be a major shuffle in a rebuilding process for the Oilers who head into the game against the Predators last in the NHL standings, five points back of the Toronto Maple Leafs and 11 behind the Carolina Hurricanes.

Grebeshkov was not the veteran name rumoured about in trade talks leading up to Wednesday's deadline. However, he was one of the few valuable assets other teams were interested in acquiring.

"I like Denis; he was a good player for us and is going to have a good career," said Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini. "But we need to go in a new direction.

"We'd had discussions with other teams these last few weeks on a number of different issues. Denis was one of the players other teams were interested in and the Predators got to the point in terms of what we were asking for.

"We think this gives us a great asset moving forward."

Oddly enough, all Grebeshkov has to do to suit up for his new team is walk down the hall at the Bridgestone Arena and into the home dressing room.

In an ironic twist, the Oilers are the first team he'll face as a member of the Predators.

"That's going to be weird," Grebeshkov said. "I'm just hoping I don't pass the puck to one of them during the game."


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